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Environment Ministry and Tokyo Cement to plant 167,500 kumbuk and bamboo saplings



On the banks of Mahaweli River

by Ifham Nizam

The Environment Ministry and Tokyo Cement Company on Thursday signed an agreement to plant 167,500 kumbuk and bamboo saplings on the banks of Mahaweli River after a recent Cabinet paper recommended the proposal.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will focus on planting bamboo and kumbuk saplings on both sides of the Mahaweli, the longest river in Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the event, Tokyo Cement Managing Director. R. S. Gnanam said: ” We have previously supported a number of environmental programs. We implemented many projects especially for the protection of mangroves and their cultivation. We are pleased to work with the Ministry of Environment to protect the Mahaweli River. “Tokyo Cement will continue to contribute to the protection of the environment in the country”.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said: “We are implementing a program to curb river erosion as well as designate river bank conservation zones. This marks the beginning of the program”.

The total river basin of the Mahaweli River is 10,448 square kilometers. The largest irrigation projects and agricultural zones in the country are operating under the Mahaweli River Development Project. Under this there are several major irrigation projects including Victoria, Randenigala, Rantambe, Polgolla, Bowatenna, Kotmale and Moragahakanda projects.

An estimated 167,500 bamboo and kumbuk plants will be planted under this project (20 percent bamboo and 80 percent kumbuk).

The project will be launched under the title “Iwuru Rakina Pawuru” as the first large scale tree planting project in the history of Sri Lanka.

The government will not inject funds into the project as Tokyo Cement Company is the full sponsor, a Ministry official said.

Additional Secretary to the Ministry R. M. R. Rupasinghe and other officials were also present.

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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic



Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds



By Dinasena Ratugamage


Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.



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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle



It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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